Daimler’s “Inspiration” is the first ever autonomous, self-driving semi truck licensed to drive on Nevada’s highway system. It was debuted this week Tuesday, at an event atop the Hoover Dam, that included a night drive across the dam – driver included (this time).
However, Daimler isn’t quite ready to start taking customer orders for the truck, and they said they have no intention of ditching real-life drivers. Instead, truck drivers would become more on an on-board logistics manager, keeping things running on track.
“We’re far from that. We’re just getting people inspired,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the board of management of Daimler AG.
Though, if the company was in logistics business, the truck could be used for shipping goods on the highways between Reno and Las Vegas, due to it’s automated state license. For now, Inspiration will be used only for additional testing, and of course showing off what the truck can already do.
For years, companies have been testing different autonomous technology in passenger vehicles – including blind spot warnings, automatic parallel parking, and break assist – to name a few.
With a autonomous, self-driving vehicle – especailly one as large as a semi truck – there are many questions that aren’t yet answered. Daimler Trucks North America president and CEO Martin Daum said society might forgive a number of deaths caused by tired truck drivers at the wheel but they would never forgive a single fatal crash blamed on a fully automated big rig.
Still, “we believe that before passenger cars will be cruising around in suburbs, long before that, you will be seeing heavy trucks running on the interstate highways,” Bernhard said. There are no intersections, no red lights, no pedestrians, he said, making it a far less complex trip for a truck to make.
The company, however, said they have no intention of ditching real-life drivers – instead the driver would be more of an on-board logistics manager.
For now, only four states certify testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads – as long as there is a human driver behind the wheel. Other states have shown interest in allowing such tests, but in the end, proper testing will take more than just a few random states. Bernhard believes more states need to allow for testing of these autonomous vehicles. When neighboring states allow for this type of autonomous vehicle, it starts to make sense to more and more customers who could benefit from the technology.
Information for this article was taken from Kimberly Pierceall’s AP article, Daimler’s self-driving big rig makes big entrance in Nevada, published May. 6, 2015 8:25 AM EDT